For me 2016 was all about risk and reward (and inspiration from a pop hero)

2016 has been seen as a universally bad year and, yes, some of my friends had a dreadful time last year and yes some of my celebrity heroes died but for me it was about positive change and emergence.

On the other hand I had a tough 2015 full of bereavement and health issues for me and others. I ended that year tired, drained and in need of some change in my life.

For someone who is a freelancer, one of the problems of making changes is that the need to earn can take up all the time that you would require to find new ways of living and working. At the beginning of 2016 my working was divided between writing and creating social media content, and tech editing/pattern writing with the odd bit of teaching. Designing was something that happened in my down time (when there was some) and although my head was full of ideas, it was mainly for me because I didn't have the confidence to share my final patterns or put many submission in. Putting myself out there felt risky - especially after 2015.
Des CollageI had published a few patterns by the end of 2015

At the beginning of the year I had one permanent contract for work which on paper accounted for about a bit more than of my time but not necessarily 50+% of my potential income in a month. In reality it tended to take up more time than that which meant I was working well into evenings and weekends and wondering whether I could take on the growing amount of other work I was generating. It also meant I had no time to draw or transcribe pattern motes from the things I was creating - let alone time to experiment or learn.

Sock cardSocks where among the notes needing turned into patterns

And to be honest, it was the least satisfying of everything I was doing. But walking away was a massive risk. That job meant regular income and stability but on the other hand my other work was growing. Yet still I held on. Then I found myself trying to meet one freelance deadline in the lunchbreak from the regular part-time job and that lunchbreak was interrupted because yet more was being added to the role. I stressed, I flailed, I panicked and then I decided to resign from the job.

Big risk number 1!

So then I was able to say yes to the new work I was offered and suddenly had time to work on my design ideas, write up some shawl patterns etc. It also meant I was working entirely from home so I could arrange my working time to suit me, fit in some rehab time from an operation I had had late in 2015 and be creative when inspiration struck. 

Of course this didn't mean i was suddenly publishing patterns and submitting design ideas - I hadn't had that much of a confidence injection - but there was plenty of tech editing and writing to be done. And new work to pitch for.

Then risk number 2 happened! This one I owe to Prince.

One the day that the death of the pop legend was announced I was listening to some his music and doodling a shawl with a purple pencil. 

The next morning by chance I heard that the editor of Knitting might be interested in "weekend knits" accessory patterns with a Prince theme. So the doodle became a sketch, and a submission with yarn choices and I sent it off. By the end of the day I had a commission for my Purple Rain shawlette.

Purple rain K159 aut2016

Once I'd made one submission, it was at least a little bit easier to put in more submissions. I also realised I should have been doing this much earlier - the few patterns I had previous released had received good feedback and I'd actually one two knitting design competitions in 2015. And if you don't submit and share your ideas, how are you ever going to get your designs noticed.

So now I've had a series of items in Knitting with more coming up there and in other places, and the good feedback continues. Though I still feel slightly surprised when I see other people knitting my designs.

Knitting mag 2016ZigZag, Ardmore and Braniel

Despite this I still had lots of finished samples and patterns in various stages of completion so I decided to give myself a little jeopardy and a very definite deadline. 

So for risk number 3, I applied for a stall in the Indie Spotlight section of the new Yarnporium yarn show to sell patterns and introduce myself more widely as a designer. This was as much about publishing patterns and standing up to say I really am a designer as selling on the day and even for someone like me with plenty of experience of craft shows, that was a real challenge. But I did it and you can read more about it here.

Sss collage for blogThe Sea Shore Sky shawls - Salmon Net shawl, Starry Night Shawlette, Waves on
Slate shawlette
, Coolmore Creek, and Low Tide scarf - were among the patterns
completed for Yarnporium

So I will always think of 2016 as a positive year for me. It may have taken a long time but I have achieved something my 10-year-old self really hoped for - I am paid to design clothes.

So going into 2017, my working life now has a three way split: writing and social media. tech editing and pattern writing, and designing. I'm happier, I'm more fulfilled and my belief in following my dreams has been revived. What happens next, who knows?








My stall at Yarnporium is about much more than selling patterns on the day

I have a stall in the Indie Spotlight section of the new Yarnporium yarn show this weekend.


As I prepare pdfs and head to my local printers, steam samples and weave in the ends of new additions, I have been thinking about why I am doing this.

The answer is about so much more than standing at a table encouraging people to try the knitted samples and hopefully selling some patterns.

It is about me pushing myself forward, forcing me to share the fruits of my teeming brain and exposing my ideas to public view.

“Exposing” is the right word.

I recently read a blog by someone who said they would find it hard to be a knitting designer because it took her time to come up with ideas. I am the opposite – if see inspiration everywhere from picking up a skein of yarn, visiting museums, to just colours or shapes I see as I am walking down the street. I have no problem (at least most of the time) of turning the inspiration into an item, I am always itching to be making. Of course, I generally want to be making a dozen items at once and would like another three days a week.

As an experienced tech editor and pattern writer putting the patterns down on paper and sorting some test knitting aren’t issues either.

PicMonkey Collage

My problem is getting the patterns out into the world in finished state where other people might see them and judge my creative outpouring. I will be exposing part of me.


Some patterns are inspired by memories so they can feel v personal

However, when I am working on a magazine commission the pattern gets written up and sample completed on time and oddly I don’t seem to have any anxiety about my work being seen – perhaps because the magazine staff have already liked my idea.

One thing I have realised is that I work best to deadlines, probably because of my background in journalism.

So why not set myself a massive, exposing deadline and book a stall at a yarn show to share my patterns? Hence I will be at Yarnporium.

Booking for the show meant I needed a plan both for the day and in terms of getting myself ready.


The first decision was what to focus on. Having worked at Yarn Shows of various sizes as well as visited many, I know one of the regular conversation goes along the lines of:

“Look at this wonderful skein of yarn I’ve bought”

“What are you going to make”

“I don’t know but it is beautiful.”

So I decided to concentrate on finishing (and revamping) accessory patterns that would work with those lovely skeins – so shawls, cowls, hats, gloves and mitts etc – and on the day doing something I enjoy ie chatting to people about lovely yarn and how it might be used. I believe that the ture joy of that wonderful skein is finding a pattern that is a pleasure to knit and results in an item that brings you some joy when you wear or use it.

The next stage was to look at the samples and yarn for new samples where necessary and check what would be feasible in the timescale. From that I had a list of patterns to work on, samples to complete and pictures to take – a set of deadlines that were real. And it’s worked, there many more patterns in my Ravelry shop and a bulging bag of samples at my side as I type. I did have to narrow down the plans slightly which mean I have plans for two gorgeous shawls to start soon.

Accessory collageI'm determined to keep everyone cosy this winter

The success of the weekend will not just be measured in whether I sell X number of patterns. I have already scored a success in terms of letting go of these designs and ideas.

I have also worked on a process of building relationships by making sure that I have samples in yarns that will be available at the show and talking to those yarn producers and dyers about what I’m doing. Those connections include Travelknitter, Third Vault Yarns, Eden Cottage Yarns, Easy Knits, Whimzy, The Little Grey Sheep, Baa Ram Ewe and Debonnaire. So if you come along you can match the patterns to the lovely yarn.

And it is about me saying I am proud of my work and that’s a big step in itself.

Unravel 2016: 4-ply extravaganza

I took a trip to the Unravel yarn show on Friday. I like this show because, as a friend visiting for the first time put it: "There are good things all over"

It is a show featuring smaller companies with interesting designs, fibres and colours. So you can always find something new and come away feeling inspired which is exactly what I needed.

Unusually for me, I didn't go to the show with a plan or a shopping list - I really was looking for inspiration and just to enjoy the yarn and the patterns plus catching up with friends and contacts from the yarnie world. Even more so when I eventually arrived after a saga of cancelled and delayed trains. 

And it didn't disappoint. I had some lovely chats and catch ups with friends old and new. An indie dyer previously only known to me as the "Buzz Lighyear lady" - she understood why - now has a name and I'm looking forward to meeting her at future shows.

And yes I did shop, treating myself to some skeins I fell in love with and nabbing a couple of bargains - all 4-ply.

Un ravel 16Collage
Silkie Merino by Whimzy; Easyknits Dusted Dreams; Baa Ram Ewe Titus in rhubarb; and the £4 bargains, Knitglobal sock in Ocean and Purple Haze

I was barely through the door of the show when I spotted the subtle green and russet skein of Silkie Merino (50/50 silk/merino) by Ling of Whimzy (the Buzz Lightyear lady) who has a creative eye for colour combinations. The yarn is destined to be a crescent shawlette - quite possible with a Victorian lace edging like this one


There are no firm plans for the other yarns yet, but when I took the yarns out to photograph I put the Titus (I couldn't leave with out a skein in that intense colour) next to the purple Knitglobal sock and was taken aback by how much I like them together.


And the Dusted Dreams - well I've been fascinated to see how the colours knit up - just need to decide if it is for socks or a beanie and mitts combo...


Spoiled for choice

I want to make another set of the Brigid mitts and beanie hat. Partly because at this time of year I always want more cosy knitwear and partly because I want to check a tweak I've made to the beanies shaping before I publish the pattern.

Brigid 1

Brigid mitts


Brigid beanie version 1 modelled by Esmerelda

I've narrowed it down to three colourways - a subtle blue, cheery red or my typical purple. But I'm struggling to decide.

PicMonkey Collage

Any one else have an opinion?


More inspirations - sock knitting in the kitchen

Hot cross Collage

This is a cable I've been playing about with in different ways recently and it popped into my head again one morning when I was making breakfast. The puns around toasty warm feet and hot cross socks were a bit to much and then I spotted these two yarns - one made me think of jam and the other the top of a spicy bun... so the socks came into being.

The final pattern is being tested right now and will be published very soon.